The QT

Saturday 15 June 2024

Tony Baker obituary: From Prime Ministers to pitmen

Once the face of BBC Look North’s political coverage, Tony Baker passed away this week. Friend Dan Kirkby worked with him for many years and looks back at his career
Tony Baker (left) pictured with the Prime Minister John Major in the 1990s

Tony Baker, one of the North East’s most eminent journalists and broadcasters, has died, aged 76, following a long illness.

Ever-present on BBC screens for almost 30 years, his communication skills, empathy and understanding of ‘the story’, meant Tony was comfortable in the presence of a huge spectrum of people from Prime Ministers and Parliamentarians, to pitmen on the picket line.

A journalist from his teens, he began work on newspapers in Northampton, where he had attended the local grammar school. He went on to work for the Coventry Evening Telegraph from its district office in Rugby.

Tony’s broadcasting career began at BBC Radio Leicester, and then in 1973 he secured an on-screen role at Border Television, in Carlisle.

While at Border Television, Tony wrote a version of the pantomime Dick Whittington and impressed all when he persuaded broadcasters Jimmy Young and Gordon Honeycomb to record comic routines for it.

Wherever Tony worked he proved hugely popular among his colleagues and viewers, and built an extensive network of contacts.

In 1979 Tony headed to the North East to join BBC Television. The fact that he was colour blind meant that he relied on daughter Kathryn to pick his ties for the broadcast later that day, to avoid terrible colour clashes.

As BBC Political Correspondent, Tony was a regular on Look North and The Politics Show. He also presented network programmes such as BBC Breakfast, BBC Business, BBC World Service, Nationwide and File on 4.

Tony began his television career in 1979

On leaving the BBC in 2004, Baker continued to tell other people’s stories, as a film-maker.

His love of travel and epic adventure saw him pursuing projects in far-flung places including the Arctic, China, the Sahara Desert and the USA, continuing to make friends wherever he went.

His ability and drive to communicate stories never deserted him and despite his recent ill-health was scoping a new television screenplay on the life and times of England cricketer Basil D’Oliveira.

Friends say he faced recent adversity with enormous courage and grace. Tony remained a true gentleman to the end.

Tony, who until recently lived in Great Whittington, Northumberland, leaves three children, Kathryn, Rosie and Charlie.

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